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Environment - May 20

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David Gow, The Guardian
European energy groups involved in carbon trading are manipulating the scheme for profit, not principle
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The EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS), the cornerstone of its campaign to assume global leadership in combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, is in tatters.

This week, the European commission confirmed that companies operating more than 9000 industrial plants had emitted 66m tonnes less carbon dioxide (CO2) than allowed in 2005. The news prompted charges that the commission had been hoodwinked by energy groups into granting grossly over-generous pollution permits.

To add insult to injury, the scheme is proving a recipe for windfall profits.

...The complex scheme's fundamental problems arise because governments, under pressure from power producers, give free permits up to a certain level to these very producers, who are responsible for the bulk of CO2 emissions. Those who cut their output via clean technology have allowances to spare and can sell them to, say, coal-fired generators at up to €30 a tonne, netting the profits.

The Edinburgh-based energy consultants IPA, who wrote the report on the DTI website, calculate that the windfall earnings would not have arisen if, say, the British government had capped permits at 45m tonnes of CO2 rather than the 130m tonnes it issued.

Analysts say one answer would be to create a genuine carbon trading system by forcing energy groups - which, after all, operate in a captive market free of outside competition - to bid for their permits.
(17 May 2006)


Carbon Dioxide Is Good for You

Big Gav, Peak Energy
The wise folk at the Competitive Enterprise Institute have become vexed by all this talk about global warming and climate chaos - setting aside their cigars and revitalsing radium drinks, putting down the bottle of DDT they were washing the kids' hair with, shuffling past the piles of asbestos in the back yard and hunting through the garage to get some video gear from behind the old X-Ray machine they use to check everything inside is OK once a week, they have produced some unusual advertisements to explain why the world's scientists have got it all wrong about the danger of constantly increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
(19 May 2006)
Links and commentary from Down Under.


Climate Change: When Policy Cycles are Circumvented

Bart Mongoven, Stratfor
Compromise on climate change legislation appears to be increasingly likely in Washington. All the stars are aligning in a way that would push a compromise forward: Gasoline prices are high, the Middle East and Venezuela are creating complex challenges for U.S. foreign policy, Nigeria is increasingly chaotic, and scientific findings are accumulating that confirm temperatures globally are indeed rising.

Into this atmosphere comes Earth First!, a group whose name in the past has been synonymous with the term "ecoterrorism" and which now is dedicated to dramatic direct action protest. Promising to block access to refineries, harass executives and otherwise make a lot of noise, Earth First! has formed a coalition -- Rising Tide North America -- that says it will fill a longstanding void in climate change activism. But while the new coalition is bound to make noise over the coming years, its impact on public policy likely will be much smaller than that of contemporary radical direct-action campaigns.

Rising Tide argues that U.S.-based climate change activism is too staid. The coalition's leaders fret that the public debate is dominated by mainstream environmental groups that excel in lobbying strategies, advertising and traditional public relations campaigns. From the Earth First! perspective, these groups do not bring energy or passion to campaigns, and they compromise too readily on important issues. The implicit argument is that rank-and-file Americans -- including grassroots activists -- have never truly engaged on the climate change issue.

This criticism is generally on target. Climate change is a priority concern in most of the industrialized world -- witness the maelstrom of angst this week over the announcement that the European Union's emissions trading system is not working. The United States, by comparison, is a calm backwater as far as this issue is concerned.

The reasons for the split in perspectives are myriad. First, environmentalism is more deeply embedded in the politics of most industrialized countries than it is in the United States. Further, in many countries, concern about climate change is a mark of erudition; in others, it has become a political statement about being different from Americans. Japan, meanwhile, considers itself "home" to the Kyoto Protocol, and expressing concern about climate change is a patriotic issue. Finally and importantly, activists in other countries have done a better job of convincing the public that climate change is a serious matter that requires government action.

Within the United States, climate change has traveled an unusual path in the public policy cycle. It did not follow the typical route from obscurity to the public mind as similar issues do, and as a result, certain attributes are missing from the debate -- including strong grassroots support for federal action on climate change.

Usually, a policy issue travels a predictable path -- from a raw idea, issue or concern to a mature policy issue that is ready for political attention.
(18 May 2006)
Good piece of analysis. See the original for complete article. The direct URL for the article (given above) will show a paywall. You can bypass the paywall by going through GoogleNews listings for author Bart Mongoven.

From Stratfor's About Us page:

Founded in 1996, Stratfor has revolutionized the way businesses, trade associations, government agencies, and individuals get access to timely, accurate global intelligence, analysis, and forecasting for making their most important strategic decisions... Known by the largest and most successful global corporations as the “shadow CIA” (Barron's), Stratfor can be your secret weapon for navigating the global business and political environment and optimizing the results of your initiatives.

Related from Rising Tide and EarthFirst!:
Rising Tide Takes the Helm
Earth First! Climate Caucus
July 15th 2006 -- Direct Action for Climate Justice


Thank you for emitting

RealClimate
A recent movie, 'Thank You for Smoking', amusingly highlighted the lengths that PR reps for the tobacco companies would go to distort the public discourse on the health effects of smoking. Lest you thought that was of merely historical relevance, we would like to draw your attention to two of the funniest videos around. Lifting a page straight out of the Nick Naylor playbook, the CEI (an industry-funded lobby group) has launched a new ad campaign that is supposed to counteract all those pesky scientific facts about global warming.

The first ad (both available here) deserves to become a classic of the genre. It contains the immortal lines 'CO2: they call it pollution, we call it Life!' - it is beyond parody and without content - and so you should definitely see it. The second ad has a little more substance - but is as misleading as you might expect.

They only discuss one scientific point which relates to whether 'glaciers are melting'. Unsurprisingly, they don't discuss the dramatic evidence of tropical glacier melting, the almost worldwide retreat of other mountain glaciers, the rapid acceleration of fringing glaciers on Greenland or the Antarctic peninsula. Neither do they mention that the preliminary gravity measurements imply that both Antarctica and Greenland appear to be net contributors to sea level rise. No. The only studies that they highlight are ones which demonstrate that in the interior of the ice shelves, there is actually some accumulation of snow (which clearly balances some of the fringing loss). These studies actually confirm climate model predictions that as the poles warm, water vapour there will increase and so, in general, will precipitation. In the extreme environments of the central ice sheets, it will not get warm enough to rain and so snowfall and accumulation are expected to increase.
(18y May 2006)


The Sway of the World

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist
Gore-backed group will spend big to convince Americans climate change is real
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Think you've been hearing a lot about global warming lately? If a new climate-focused group hatched by Al Gore has its way, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

After nine months of behind-the-scenes planning and wrangling, the Alliance for Climate Protection is now nearly ready for prime time. Gore spoke about the alliance in an exclusive interview with Muckraker. He said the group aims to raise big bucks for a single goal: "To move the United States past a tipping point on climate change, beyond which the majority of the people will demand of the political leaders in both parties that they compete to offer genuinely meaningful solutions to the crisis."

Practically speaking, this means launching a massive media and grassroots education campaign trumpeting the urgency of global warming and targeted at all manner of Americans -- "NASCAR fans, churchgoers, labor-union members, small businessmen, engineers, hunters, sportsmen, corporate leaders, you name it," said Gore -- with the assumption that "where public opinion goes, federal policy will follow."

With a leadership team that includes Brent Scowcroft, national-security adviser to presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford; Carol Browner, head of the U.S. EPA under Bill Clinton; and other heavies, the alliance could considerably pump up the volume of the green movement's barely audible public outreach on global warming.
(19 May 2006)


Ankelohe and beyond: communicating climate change

Simon Retallack, Open Democracy
A new way of framing the climate-change issue that makes sense in people's daily lives is needed in order to translate passive awareness into active concern.
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... Research conducted in the United States as part of the Climate Message Project led by the FrameWorks Institute discovered that some of the ways in which climate change is commonly being reported is actually having a counterproductive effect – by immobilizing people.

The FrameWorks Institute conducted a linguistic analysis of elite discourse on climate change in media coverage as well as of environmental groups' own communications on the issue, followed by one-on-one interviews and focus groups with members of the public and a national poll.

What the FrameWorks Institute found was startling. It found that the more people are bombarded with words or images of devastating, quasi-Biblical effects of global warming, the more likely they are to tune out and switch instead into "adaptationist" mode, focusing on protecting themselves and their families, such as by buying large vehicles to secure their safety.

FrameWorks found that depicting global warming as being about "scary weather" evokes the weather "frame" which sets up a highly pernicious set of reactions, as weather is something we react to and is outside human control. We do not prevent or change it, we prepare for it, adjust to it or move away from it. Also, focusing on the long timelines and scale of global warming further encourages people to adapt, encouraging people to think "it won't happen in my lifetime" and "there's nothing an individual can do".

As importantly, the FrameWorks Institute found that stressing the large scale of global warming and then telling people they can solve it through small actions like changing a light-bulb evokes a disconnect that undermines credibility and encourages people to think that action is meaningless. The common practice of throwing solutions in at the end of a discussion fails to signal to people that this is a problem that could be solved at all.

...According to this approach, how an issue is "framed" – what words, metaphors, stories and images are used to communicate about it – will determine what frames are triggered, which deeply held worldviews, widely held assumptions or cultural models it will be judged against, and accepted or rejected accordingly. If the facts don't fit the frames that are triggered, it's the facts that are rejected not the frame.

...Applying this approach to communications on climate change in the United States, the FrameWorks Institute drew several conclusions:

* it recommended placing the issue in the context of higher-level values, such as responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision and ingenuity
* it proposed that action to prevent climate change should be characterised as being about new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence and caring
* conversely, it proposed that opponents of action be charged with the reverse of these values – irresponsibility, old thinking and inefficiency.

FrameWorks also recommended using a simplifying model, analogy or metaphor to help the public understand how global warming works – a "conceptual hook" to make sense of information about the issue. Instead of the "greenhouse-gas effect", which was found did not perform for most people, FrameWorks recommended talking about the "CO2 blanket" or "heat-trap" to set up appropriate reasoning.
(17 May 2006)
Also posted at truthout.

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